Late last year, Clicker Heroes developer Playsaurus announced that the sequel to its popular clicker RPG would ditch the original's free-to-play model in favor of an upfront cost, in no small part because its creators wanted "a cleaner conscience" and didn't want to exploit the big-spending 'whale' players that drive most free-to-play games. At the time, the studio said the change "may or may not work," and that with an upfront cost, the sequel "probably isn't worth nearly as much money." Well, Clicker Heroes 2 is now available on Steam Early Access for $30, and while it remains to be seen if it's as profitable as the original, it is most definitely popular.
At the time of writing, Clicker Heroes 2 is well into Steam's top 100 with 8,947 concurrent players and a daily peak of 9,350. According to Steam Charts, it's managed an average of 7,336 concurrent players since it launched this past Monday, with an all-time peak of 9,570. Those are strong numbers for any new Early Access game, but for a $30 sequel fighting to shed the free-to-play reputation of its predecessor, Clicker Heroes 2's popularity is astonishing. Just as impressively, its Steam reviews are currently 78 percent positive. There's clearly something to it, so I decided to give it a play myself. And I have to admit, while I'm not the biggest fan of idle games, I found Clicker Heroes 2 quite absorbing.
Like its predecessor, Clicker Heroes 2 is an idle action RPG where your character moves and attacks automatically and you passively earn money and experience. Your primary input is clicking to attack faster and occasionally upgrading your character. As Playsaurus puts it, it's "a never-ending journey to the top right of your screen." That journey starts with you swinging a wet noodle around dealing 20 damage to monsters that drop 30 gold. Fast forward an hour and you're wielding the fuckin' femur of Zeus (or whatever it is) dealing so much damage and gaining so much gold that their values can only be expressed in exponents. And that's just the beginning. In Clicker Heroes 2, a quadrillion gold is pocket change. I don't get out of bed for anything under a decillion.
That much hasn't changed, but Clicker Heroes 2 improves on the ideas established in the original by polishing them up and making them considerably more interactive. For instance, you're no longer just clicking stationary enemies. You're also clicking gold piles and energy pylons along the path you're running, fattening your wallet and replenishing the energy you spend on clicks. Apart from energy, you've also got mana which you can spend on skills, of which there are a frightening amount: Playsaurus says the current skill tree has around 600 nodes and that new characters will also get their own unique trees.
Most of those nodes are passive buffs, but some of them are active skills you can slot into your hotbar. Some skills cost energy and some cost mana, but they all have cooldowns. As a result, a big part of Clicker Heroes 2 is building your own skill rotations—yes, exactly like an MMO, albeit greatly simplified. You can even program skills to trigger automatically using a macro-like system called the Automator. You can also tailor your character's stats by buying gear with specific bonuses—earn more gold, deal more critical hits, encounter more treasure chests, and so on.
Finally, Clicker Heroes 2 is a pretty little thing, which is important for a game that's designed to be stared at through a dreamlike haze. Its bright, cartoony art is easy on the eyes, and its smooth attack animations are fun to watch. I especially like the super-click attacks which lob giant cursors at enemies like some kind of Microsoft Office mortar.
If games like Diablo and Borderlands are loot treadmills, Clicker Heroes 2 is a loot conveyor belt that leads right to your face. It's the videogame equivalent of a bottomless bag of potato chips that you don't even have to reach for because the chips are conveniently shoveled into your gaping pie hole. It's a game about pure, unfiltered catharsis, not challenge. But speaking as someone who generally doesn't like idle games, Clicker Heroes 2 does feel like one of the best idle games out there.